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  • Video

    Willem de Kooning 'Untitled XXVIII', 1977

    "This painting is the complex and brilliant culmination of de Kooning's years observing and internalizing the landscape around him in his home and studio on Long Island's East End. Here, he's painting the landscape from within, as if from the inside looking out.." Phillips' Senior Advisor Arnold Lehman discusses Willem de Kooning's 'Untitled XXVIII', 1977 in advance of our 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 8 November at 7pm in New York.

  • Provenance

    Xavier Fourcade, New York
    Private Collection
    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Houston, Janie C. Lee Gallery, Major Pictures, October 1978
    Seattle, Richard Hines Gallery, Willem de Kooning: Paintings, Sculpture, Drawings, January 23 – March 8, 1980
    Lisbon, Embassy of the United States, 1981
    Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Five Distinguished Alumni, The W.P.A. Federal Art Project: An Exhibition Honoring the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Centennial, January 21 - February 22, 1982, later traveled to East Hampton, Guild Hall (March 13 – April, 1982)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Then there is a time in life when you just take a walk: And you walk in your own landscape.” Willem de Kooning

    Willem de Kooning spent his entire artistic career exploring the lustrous tactility of oil paint--pushing, pulling and scraping paint in search of the perfect moment, one of balanced tension and retention. The mid-1970s saw de Kooning produce a body of work that captured his absorption in the natural world of Springs, East Hampton, New York. Untitled XXVIII, 1977, rendered in creamy yellows, crisp whites and sky blues, seizes a glimpse of the landscape in an inspired attempt to hold onto the temporal chaos of the sand, wind, and sky. Untitled XXVIII fuses the anthropomorphic and the natural, the abstracted landscape containing incipient human shapes. The underpinning of every canvas, every visceral brush stroke, whether figural or natural, reveals de Kooning’s impulsive painterly actions.

    De Kooning’s life long affair with his landscape is undeniable throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, culminating with this miraculous series of landscapes of 1977 in which the present lot is included. The late paintings of the 1970s have broken free from the topographic and narrative contexts of other Hamptons inspired canvases that have titles such as Clam Digger and Back Porch. Moving away from allusions to themes of summer vacation, his compositions tend to avoid the representational with a simple Untitled. At this point de Kooning has spent over 10 years in the Springs and his interest in his surrounds have vigorously reemerged, explaining “When I moved into this house, everything seemed self evident…The space, the light, the trees --- I just accepted it without thinking about it much. Now I look around with new eyes, I think it’s all a kind of miracle.”

    The importance of landscape painting for de Kooning finds its roots in the sweeping seascapes of J.M. Turner. The luminosity of Turner’s salty scenes is echoed within the slippery consistency of de Kooning’s brush strokes while his admiration for vigorous and adept brush work is gleaned from the visceral paintings of Chaim Soutine, whose portraits, landscapes and still lives, particularly his depictions of butchered meat are defined by their electrically charged aesthetic. In order to fuse these two desired artistic effects de Kooning began with a layer of “lead white paint which he would sand down until the surface became almost translucence.” Within the supple, luminous white of de Kooning’s paintings, Turner’s vaporous snowstorms and sea storms come to mind, lost in a deluge of beautiful and temporal forms. Between the snow and the air, the wind and the sea, comes the natural sublime, which de Kooning was eager to return to in 1977. De Kooning explained to Harold Rosenberg in 1972, “I wanted to get back to a feeling of light in painting …I wanted to get in touch with nature. Not painting scenes from nature, but to get a feeling of that light that was very appealing to me.” To capture this sea side light de Kooning utilized an abundance of white paint saturated with sun filled colors. The present lot, Untitled XXVIII was painted in 1977, the year which David Sylvester described as the “annus mirabilis of de Kooning’s career.” De Kooning himself acknowledges this glorious time in his artistic career saying, “I could not put down the brush.” Of the 1975 paintings, Dore Ashton wrote, “De Kooning masterfully directs the viewer on a journey through many climates.” His canvaseshave been composed of water diluted oil paints applied with utilitarian house-painters’ brushes, he then dressed his exposed wet oil paintings with a cover of paper, vellum or cardboard, which would later be peeled away, leaving behind a unique impression. The surface would then be besieged with pigment-laden spatulas or knives. The image field emerges out of this dynamic, multi-layered process. Untitled XXVIII, springs to life, with textual buoyancy, swirling with activated momentum, the surface is animated with areas of tactile softness, bumping, crumpling, furrowing and flexure. The complicated stages of paint application and the amended surfaces of the canvas were meant to emulate, in immediate human terms, the variable intensity of nature.

  • Artist Biography

    Willem de Kooning

    American • 1904 - 1997

    Born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Willem de Kooning moved to the United States in his early 20s, arriving in Manhattan by 1927. A founding member of the Abstract Expressionist movement in New York, de Kooning was a contemporary of Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, and of course his wife, Elaine de Kooning. Having claimed that “flesh is the reason why oil painting was invented,” de Kooning is best known for his rapid, forceful brushwork and thickly impastoed paint in evoking the human body, even as some of his contemporaries moved towards pure abstraction. Like the other New York School painters, de Kooning was a proponent of “Action Painting,” which emphasized the physical aspect of the work, eschewing the idea that painting was necessarily a careful, precise art form.

    By the 1960s, the artist was living and working in East Hampton, where he managed to breathe new life into his work after decades in an urban environment and remained there until his death in 1997 at the age of 92. De Kooning’s works reside in leading institutions worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., Tate, London, and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

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Property from a Private Collection

Ο ◆16

Untitled XXVIII

1977
oil on canvas
60 x 54 in. (152.4 x 137.2 cm)
Signed "de Kooning" on the reverse.

Estimate
$10,000,000 - 15,000,000 

Sold for $11,365,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 8 November 2015 7pm